As more and more preservice school librarians (SLs) engage in library and information science (LIS) course work online, it is important for LIS educators to consider how the online environment affects pedagogy. While educators may focus on what is lost when moving learning from the face-to-face classroom to exclusively virtual settings, the fact is online learning is here to stay. Graduate students, in particular, who may be employed full-time and have a variety of personal commitments demand the freedom to access their education from the comfort of their own homes and at the most convenient hours or days of the week for their busy schedules.
There are other benefits to online SL graduate students. They will enter the school library having had the experience of learning online. They will be prepared to collaboratively plan with classroom teachers using a wide variety of information and communication technology tools (ICTs). They will also bring their online learning experience to their understanding of how to teach students online—when they are asked to do so. (Yes! That day is coming if it hasn’t already arrived at your pre-K-12 school.)
As a preservice SL educator, I am committed to providing graduate students with opportunities to use and experiment with many different types of ICTs. These are some of questions I ask when selecting a menu of tools for LIS students’ use: Does the tool help me meet the learning objectives I have set for a particular assignment? How can the tool be used collaboratively? Does the tool increase students’ opportunities to learn with and from each other? Does the tech tool help learners experience some of the benefits of the face-to-face classroom, such as voice, facial expression, and body language? How interactive is the tool?
ApprenNet.com is one tool that meets all of these criteria. Developed specifically for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), students in the courses I teach (maximum enrollment of twenty-five) have benefited greatly from using this tool. (We have been using this tool each semester since the spring of 2014.) ApprenNet exercises are comprised of four parts: a video challenge and student video response, peer review (including a rubric and a narrative assessment), an expert response, and feedback from the expert and classmates, including a ranking of the top five rated video responses to the challenge.
This coming fall in a course called “Librarians as Instructional Partners,” preservice SLs will engage in three different ApprenNet exercises. After conducting research regarding coteaching, they will use research-based evidence to convince a non-collaborative classroom teacher of the benefits of this teaching method. The second exercise will be a job interview with a principal. The third exercise will involve a requirement from a district-level supervisor that the SL share a lesson/unit plan in which she will make a measurable positive impact on student learning outcomes.
Last spring, I published an article in TechTrends focused on my effort to increase interactivity in my courses. “Developing ‘hands-on’ experiences in the online learning environment may help more learners enjoy learning, learn more, and remain committed to engaging in course content and completing their degrees… It seems that new tools that can be used to enhance learning and support teaching are developed daily. As we experiment with these tools, I believe that keeping our focus on interactivity that motivates and engages students in learning with and from each other in the online classroom is a worthwhile pursuit” (Moreillon 46).
Since authoring that article, I have continued to integrate this tool into my teaching and to collect survey data from LIS students who have used this tool for learning. I will be presenting a lighting round talk, “Using A Video-enhanced Tool to Increase Interactivity in the Online Learning Environment” as part of the Innovative Pedagogies Special Interest Group panel at the Association for Library and Information Science Education conference in Boston in January, 2016.
To learn more, check out the ApprenNet tool by reviewing the videos on their “How It Works” Web page.
Note: Flipgrid is a less sophisticated tool geared to preK-12 education.
Moreillon, Judi. “Increasing Interactivity In The Online Learning Environment: Using Digital Tools To Support Students In Socially Constructed Meaning-Making.” TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning 59.3 (2015): 41-47.
ApprenNet logo used with permission